Buying vs. Renting. What’s Your Best Choice?
I get a ton of questions surrounding real estate as it is one of my favorite things as well as a major part of my investment portfolio. Of all the questions I get, absolutely the most common is, whether someone should buy or rent. This seems like a simple question but it actually happens to be an extremely complicated one.
Like everything in the world, there is no one size fits all decision. While there are many mathematical ways to try to answer this question, I believe they don’t take into account the most important factors which are your point of view, future plans, and how emotional you are. Yes, emotions play a role.
Instead of me trying to tell you how to make this huge decision, I’m going to give you the pros and cons of both, as well as a couple questions that you should ask yourself before taking the step either way.
- When you rent it is easier to keep up with your bills. Usually, all you have to do is log in to a website, pay a total amount, and you’re done.
- These bills are also automatically sent to you, including utilities. This helps you make sure you don’t have to pay any late fees.
- Freedom is the biggest pro. After a year you can go wherever you want, no strings attached.
- Potential access to a free gym and pool.
- When you pay your rent, all you are really doing is helping someone else pay off their mortgage.
- Roommates and surrounding tenants can be extremely annoying. This can mean pets, small children, or the random party at 2 am on a Tuesday.
- Your space will most likely be smaller and more congested. This can be a pro for some but for most, it isn’t. Most apartments won’t offer access to a garage, a full sized kitchen, or a laundry room.
- With each payment, you are building equity in your home.
- You make all the rules. Do you want to have a grill? Go for it. Want to have as many friends over as you can? Sure why not.
- You have the freedom to do whatever you want with the property. This can be an increased expense but you have to make a house a home.
- You are in charge of paying your property taxes and home insurance.
- There is no maintenance man to call when your dishwasher starts making a funny noise or the AC goes out. That’s on you.
- It’s a larger area to maintain in general.
Think through the pros and cons and what you value, then follow up with asking yourself these questions:
- Do you plan on moving in the next 5 years?
- What will owning a house do to your commute to work, grocery store, child care, etc?
- Can you afford a downpayment of 20%?
- Are you ok with getting your hands dirty to do some painting, weed pulling, etc. or do you like for someone else to take care of it?
Here are some quick examples of this from both sides of the fence. In late 2016, I lived in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. I had a roommate who worked in the corporate world who is financially stable. We both rented for very different reasons though. For me, there were two deciding factors. One was that I wasn’t going to stay for 5 years and two, home prices were out of my budget unless I lived 2 hours outside the city. My roommate, on the other hand, worked 8 blocks from where we lived. Why would he look to buy when he lived so close to the office and had a grocery store across the street?
On the flip side of things, I have friends who are recently married, they both have solid careers, and have a dog. I don’t know what their 5-year plan is, but I’m willing to bet there is a baby in it. They have anchored themselves and this is when it makes sense to buy.
This article could have started out with me giving you some fancy equations that would allow you to find the breakeven point between buying and renting, I just believe that isn’t necessary. If using one will help to make your decision easier, here is a great calculator from NerdWallet.com.
My rule of thumb? If you plan on owning the property for more than 5 years and you can afford the down payment and mortgage payments, then buy. You will build equity in a home that is 100% yours and who knows, maybe it will appreciate nicely over the years.
Do you own a home or plan on buying one in the future?
Let’s hear about why you made your decision in the comments below.